Expanded intellectual property policy opens doors to new industry partnerships
Industry partnerships are a key component of research at the University of Idaho – in fiscal year 2013 alone, more than 50 companies funded over 80 projects at U of I.
At the behest of Chuck Staben (2014-2019 university president), the U of I Office of Research and Economic Development introduced an expanded intellectual property policy in September 2014 designed to allow new opportunities for industry to sponsor university research.
The new approach gives industry sponsors the option to obtain ownership of intellectual property discovered during research.
The university will retain the right to publish and present the research results, as well as to use inventions for university research and educational purposes.
Larry Stauffer, dean of the U of I College of Engineering and a longtime proponent of the policy change, said some companies depend on new discoveries to update and improve their products, so they depend on being able to own inventions discovered in the course of research that they fund.
Stauffer said he expects the new policy to open opportunities for faculty and students to work on cutting-edge projects.
“It improves relationships with those companies. We won’t just be a source of talent, we’ll be a source of research as well.”
The change immediately generated projects – first among them, electrical engineering professor Brian K. Johnson’s research into power systems modeling for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory (SEL).
Bob Morris, SEL’s vice president of national operations, said the company likes to partner with university researchers because of their expertise. But it’s important for SEL to protect its intellectual property so it can quickly turn discoveries into reality.
“The university’s new position on intellectual property makes it possible for my company to engage the university in more meaningful research,” Morris said.
This newly expanded partnership will allow U of I to become a national leader in power systems research, Morris said, as well as provide valuable experience to U of I students – many of whom SEL hires.
“They’re going to learn first-hand about the more significant issues of the electric power grid as far as stability and security,” he said.
Becoming a Partner
To further aid companies as they seek to sponsor U of I research, the university now provides sample research agreements for a wide range of projects at the UI Corporate Partners website.
“The private sector provides new opportunities for the members of the University of Idaho community to address problems that have near-term impact while contributing to the economic vitality of the state and region,” said Jack McIver, who was vice president for research and economic development at the time the new IP policy was developed.
“The university is not only anxious to increase the number of these collaborations, but must do so in order to fulfill its mission as a 21st century public, land-grant university.”